Student Government Elections bring fresh ideas to student body

Nara Kasbergen is running for student body vice president of finance. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Nara Kasbergen is running for student body vice president of finance. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Robert Piston is running for student body vice president of finance. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Robert Piston is running for student body vice president of finance. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Sarah Sheikh and Jonathan Hall are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff) Sarah Sheikh and Jonathan Hall are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff) Damian Valdes and Risa Masuda are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff) Damian Valdes and Risa Masuda are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff) Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff) Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein are running for student body president and vice president. (credit: Joshua Debner/Photo Staff)

The candidates for Carnegie Mellon’s student government have revved up their campaigns in preparation for the elections this week.

Three pairs of candidates are competing for the roles of student body president (SBP) and student body vice president (SBVP), and two candidates are in the running for student body vice president of finance (SBVPF).

There are websites, posters, Facebook groups, and T-shirts — most importantly, though, is that there are interesting differences between the candidates, what they wish to offer the student body, and the way that they view the executive office.

Now with a week to go, the competition is at its peak and quickly coming to an end.

Carnegie Mellon’s student government elections will open Sunday, March 29 at noon and will close at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31. Students can vote online, and paper ballots will be available in Wean Commons in the University Center on March 30 and 31.

Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein

Rotimi Abimbola:

Junior, double major in political science and international relations

Leadership Experience: Resident Assistant, Student Senate, Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition, Student Advisory Committee, SPIRIT, African Student Organization, Varsity Track and Field, Student Athlete Advisory Council

Fun fact: She is Nigerian royalty.

Adam Klein

Junior, double major in business administration and history and policy

Leadership Experience: Varsity Golf Team, Kappa Delta Rho, The Roosevelt Institution, Student Athletic Advisory Council, Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society

Fun fact: When his prom plans fell through, he invited a random girl at Smoothie King (she said yes).

Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein decided to run for SBP and SBVP to ensure government responsibility and improve the “CMU Experience” through various initiatives and student government reforms, which they characterize in their “Clear Plan.”

Abimbola has devoted her time to Student Senate since the fall of her first year, serving as business affairs chair as well as the chair of the Undergraduate Student Senate. She also is a member of the Carnegie Mellon track team and works as a resident assistant.

Klein, a member of the Carnegie Mellon golf team and Kappa Delta Rho, adds a “fresh perspective” to the ticket.

“[Adam] has provided a wealth of ideas in fostering potential initiatives like The Tartan Rewards Program for promoting Carnegie Mellon Athletics,” said Abimbola, referring to an initiative that hopes to bring the Carnegie Mellon community together at athletic events and build school spirit.

“It is important to note: Our pledge is to ensure government accountability and transparency,” said Abimbola, “and we will do this by drastically improving communication”

The communication that is needed, Abimbola and Klein argue, is between the various student government bodies and the student body. They believe using office hours as the only tool to communicate limits the executive branch’s interaction with the campus and wish to find other ways to keep the campus informed of their initiatives and undertakings.

With regard to changing the overall Carnegie Mellon experience, Abimbola and Klein claim to have a “Clear Plan” to make it successful.

“[Through] our newly proposed initiatives, and various reforms within government itself, we are able to go above and beyond existing presidential duties and work to improve the student experience, despite the hardships presented by the current financial crisis,” they contended.

In effect, the candidates wish to change the overall Carnegie Mellon experience and how students view the executive position — and they believe that it is their experience that will make them successful.

“We bring a healthy blend of ideas from the experienced leader in Senate to the motivated Greek leader and athlete. This experience will let us hit the ground running from day one,” said Abimbola.

Details of their “Clear Plan” campaign and the Carnegie Mellon Experience can be found at

Sarah Sheik and Jonathan Hall

Sarah Sheikh

Junior, business administration with an additional major in political science

Leadership Experience: Delta Gamma, MayurSASA, Amnesty International, IMPAQT, CMU Highland Ambassador, Career Center Ambassador, Student Advisory Council

Fun fact: In third grade, during P.E., she broke her nose when she ran into a girl’s head.

Jonathan Hall

Junior, business administration with a concentration in finance and entrepreneurship

Leadership Experience: BOC Committee, Varsity Soccer, SIFE, Student Athletic Advisory Council

Fun fact: He has sat in the original Batmobile.

Sarah Sheikh and Jonathan Hall are running for SBP and SBVP to bring a different type of student representation to campus — student government run by leaders instead of those involved within Carnegie Mellon’s student government bodies.

Neither Sheikh nor Hall were ever members of Student Senate; nevertheless, they were active in the campus community. For instance, Sheikh has spent the past three years at Carnegie Mellon devoting her time to MayurSASA and Amnesty International, and she is now the president of both organizations.

The same story is true of Hall, who has been a member of the Business Opportunities Committee since 2007 and is now the co-chair of the committee. Hall also has been a member of Carnegie Mellon’s varsity soccer team since 2006 and is involved in many other leadership positions on campus.

Sheikh and Hall believe that their experience in other organizations make them qualified to be SBP and SBVP — they will be able to represent students in the same way that they did in their various leadership positions since they arrived on campus.

“Jon and I do not have Senate experience,” Sheikh noted, but after she spoke to past Carnegie Mellon student body presidents who conveyed that it is not necessary to have Senate experience to be SBP or SBVP, she and Hall respond to all of those who note her lack of student government experience with one sentiment: the SBP and SBVP need to be new.

“We think it’s time for fresh blood,” she said.

That’s where their platform, CMU Stimulus, comes into play — they wish to broaden the initiatives of previous administrations through five goals that aim to change the way members of the Carnegie Mellon community interact.

The first is an adaptation to the economy in which they plan to use federal, state, and local government funding as well as corporate sponsors to implement a sponsorship committee.

They wish to also provide students with a say in what initiatives the SBP and SBVP will work on. By reaching out to the campus community, they believe that they will learn the concerns that students have, which enables them to plan to work on certain initiatives that can positively affect the Carnegie Mellon community.

Sheikh and Hall also would like to enable undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty to interact on a level that will prepare students for the real world, and they would also like to engage the campus community to be more politically active, aware of their health, and educated with regard to human rights issues.

Their website,, “is continually being updated, [but] the focus of our issues remains the same,” Sheikh said.

Damian Valdes and Risa Masuda

Damian Valdes

Junior, double major in business administration and Hispanic studies

Leadership Experience: SIFE, Student Senate, Alumni Relations, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Orientation Leader, Undergraduate Marketing Organization, Lambda Sigma Honors, Resident Assistant

Fun fact: Over spring break, he had to have an emergency appendectomy in Nicaragua.

Risa Masuda

Junior, double major business administration and Japanese studies

Leadership Experience: Student Dormitory Council, Resident Assistant, Dancers’ Symposium, Undergraduate Marketing Organization, Carnegie Clan, Kappa Alpha Theta

Fun fact: She met a geisha while studying abroad in Japan.

Damian Valdes and Risa Masuda want to build the Carnegie Mellon community through a large array of initiatives, and believe that their experiences in various student organizations and governing bodies will enable them to do so.

Valdes has been very active at Carnegie Mellon since his arrival here. He has served on Student Senate as a Senator for the Tepper School of Business, works as a project leader for SIFE, and is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He also works as a first-year resident assistant.

Masuda adds another form of student government with her experience on the Student Dormitory Council as secretary, treasurer, and communications chair. She also is a resident assistant and is an active member in a number of organizations including the Undergraduate Marketing Organization and Dancers’ Symposium.

With all of their experience in these organizations, Valdes and Masuda found that there are a number of things that they would like to see happen on campus and all of them relate to “building community,” which is their campaign slogan, message, and platform.

“When we say ‘building community,’ we mean a variety of things. Most obviously, we want to bring people together,” said Valdes.

They plan to do this through a number of initiatives or “plans of attack” that unify students through government bodies, leadership networks, and social events — in effect, giving students the ability to collaborate with one another.

An interesting initiative that Valdes and Masuda are promoting is to increase service on campus.

“Increasing service on our campus is a platform initiative that is unique to us,” Valdes argued.

“We, as students, who have been very involved in various service organizations and projects, know the benefits and sense of accomplishment offered by participating. What we want to see is unifying service events that the entire campus could become involved in.”

In regard to his opponents’ view on changing the role of SBP and SBVP, Valdes believes that the roles have never been set in stone.

“Saying that the SBP and SBVP only serve a certain role that needs change doesn’t fit,” he said. “The role is what you make it. Our plan is to use the positions as a means of bringing together groups, organizations, and governments that may not have done so in the past.”

Details on the “Building Community” campaign and more can found at their website,

Nara Kasbergen

Junior communication design major
Leadership Experience: Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture, HAPA, Student Senate, Joint Funding Committee, The Oakland Review, Relay for Life Committee, Scotch’n’Soda, Ballroom Dance Club, Fringe
Fun Fact: She’s interested in too many things, and design was the best major to combine all of her different interests.

Nara Kasbergen has served on the Joint Funding Committee (JFC) for two years, which she believes gives her the experience and know-how to execute all of the roles and responsibilities of the SBVPF and tackle all of the existing issues to make the JFC more functional.

Her campaign for SBVPF is titled “42 for CMU,” which is characterized by the five main objectives and 37 tangible goals in her campaign platform.

“Since 42 is already the answer to life, the universe, and everything, it is also an appropriate answer to the issue of how best to utilize the student activities fee,” Kasbergen said.

One goal of her campaign is to change how the JFC is viewed by organizations. Kasbergen believes that JFC is seen as a group that “just wants to cut money out of organizations’ budgets”; however, she disagrees that this is the case.

“Many students are assessed the $92-per-semester fee without ever realizing how it contributes to their Carnegie Mellon experience,” Kasbergen said.

Effectively, Kasbergen would like to become SBVPF to tackle the issues needed to fix the way that JFC is run, to open communication with its partner organizations, and to ensure that the JFC has a positive influence in the campus community.

For the complete “42 for CMU” plan and more details about Kasbergen’s campaign, visit

Robert Piston

Sophomore mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering double major
Leadership Experience: Joint Funding Committee, peer health advisor, resident assistant, SUMMIT, Student Senator (Communications Committee, Finance Committee)
Fun Fact: Can play drums, trumpet, and guitar proficiently.

Robert Piston would like to reform the JFC to allow JFC representatives to understand the budgets of their assigned organizations more fluidly, which, he believes, will allow the committee to effectively manage the allocation of the student activities fee.

“With the current economic crisis and budgets being cut left and right, the student activities account remains for the most part the same,” Piston said, which, he contends, means that JFC has more of a responsibility to student organizations to ensure fiscal responsibility.
To ensure these responsibilities, he would like to form subcommittees within the JFC to adequately allocate the student activities fee.

“I want to form subcommittees of approximately three to four people under each JFC representative. Each representative will be in charge of a specific category of organization [such as sports] and then split the organizations among the subcommittee. Each JFC rep does not have the time to gain relations with 15–20 organizations,” he argued.

Piston would also like to increase the visibility of the JFC and believes that his plan to have subcommittees will get students interested in what the JFC actually is, as well as what it does.